Saturday, February 20, 2010

Monteverde, Costa Rica

We have just spent a week in the cloud forest of Monteverde. Zane attended another week of Spanish classes, and the rest of us tried to help the first two weeks of classes sink in with some independent study.

The weather, which is typical of the area, has been quite interesing. Often the sun would be shining on us, yet a strong wind would be pushing the clouds down the mountain and making us wet. Almost always a rainbow is hangng around somewhere. This constant moisture (366 days a year we were told) is what makes the cloud forest thrive. Up to 1/4 of the living mass of the forest is epiphytes - bromiliads, spanish moss, etc.

We walked through the forest both during the day and in the evening. It was quite beautiful, very dense and moist. along the way we saw birds, monkeys, racoons, agoutis (giant rodents), and spiders. Luckily, no snakes.

We visited a bat house, which was very interesting and educational - there are over 100 types of bats including vampires!) in Costa Rica, and more bats flying around at night than birds during the day!  After the demonstrations, we visited the 90 or so resident fruit and nectar eating bats, which were actually very cute hanging from the ceiling eating bits of pineapple and papaya.

We got a bit of the history of the area (which is quite interesting) during our tour of the local cheese factory. Actually even the tour guide also had an interesting history - Costa Rican parents, raised in Wisconsin, now giving tours of the cheese factory in Monteverde.  Monteverde itself, as well as the cheese factory, was founded by a group of Quakers who left the USA around 1950 after being prosecuted for failing to register for the draft. The 11 families came to Costa Rica, which had just gotten rid of their army, bought land in the mountains, named it Monteverde, then tried to figure out how to make a living. Cheese was it. Today the factory takes the milk from about 240 farms, the largest of which has 50 cows. About half the farmers bring their milk to the factory every day in 40 liter milk cans. Along the way the Quakers also donated land to allow the establishment of he first Cloud Forest Reserve in the region.

Next stop, the beach and jungle at Drake Bay in SW Costa Rica.

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